A cry of despondency ….

I heard the song in the live version sung by the Shehenshah-e-Ghazal, Mehdi Hassan sahab and fell in love with it. I heard it later in other recordings and loved it even more.

The “song” was performed in a film, Shareek-e-Hayat released in Paapistan in the 50s. Due to the constraints of time, it sounds a bit hurried as Khansahab renders the song .

It started as a filmi ghazal, but I always love the more elaborate renditions that Mehdi Hassan launches into languidly in his live programs and makes time stand still for himself and his audiences, a truly heavenly experience that is difficult to capture in mere words, one must experience it oneself, unhurriedly. Thanks to YouTube, it’s possible to do it a few times as many of his concerts have been captured on film and posted for us to savour. Check this out. I just loved this one, despite its ( or maybe because of its) length. I love elaborate renditions by Khan saheb when he explores the farthest boundaries, with absolutely no attempt to show off or playing to the gallery that so many of his fellow countrymen indulge in, despite oodles of talent they possess.

I discovered a version of the same song by the husky voiced Abida Parveen. She brings an entirely different, spiritual flavour to the same lyrics. Amazing and very interesting. I find her voice quite enchanting. Shades of Vidushi Gangubai Hangal in her singing especially in the lower octaves.

The ghazal was written by the last notional ruler of Delhi amongst the Moghuls, Bahadur Shah “Zafar”. While he might have been an extremely incompetent leader of men, his poetic skills are truly sublime. Extremely accomplished. The piece is written in a moment of solitude and despondency that comes through so poignantly. Once one reads the words and understands the words, the pain and the despair seeps through.

बात करनी मुझे मुश्किल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

जैसी अब है तिरी महफ़िल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

ले गया छीन के कौन आज तिरा सब्र ओ क़रार

बे-क़रारी तुझे ऐ दिल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

उस की आँखों ने ख़ुदा जाने किया क्या जादू

कि तबीअ’त मिरी माइल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

अक्स-ए-रुख़्सार ने किस के है तुझे चमकाया

ताब तुझ में मह-ए-कामिल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

अब की जो राह-ए-मोहब्बत में उठाई तकलीफ़

सख़्त होती हमें मंज़िल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

पा-ए-कूबाँ कोई ज़िंदाँ में नया है मजनूँ

आती आवाज़-ए-सलासिल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

निगह-ए-यार को अब क्यूँ है तग़ाफ़ुल ऐ दिल

वो तिरे हाल से ग़ाफ़िल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

चश्म-ए-क़ातिल मिरी दुश्मन थी हमेशा लेकिन

जैसी अब हो गई क़ातिल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

क्या सबब तू जो बिगड़ता है ‘ज़फ़र’ से हर बार

ख़ू तिरी हूर-शमाइल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

बहादुरशाह ज़फर

The Lyrics by Bahadur Shah Zafar are written in the mid 1800s and so the words used reflect the usage of the language of the times

बात करनी मुझे मुश्किल कभी ऐसी तो न थी
जैसी अब है तेरी महफ़िल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

महफ़िल, Mehfil: Assembly, Gathering

ले गया छीन के कौन आज तेरा सब्र-ओ-करार
बेक़रारी तुझे ए दिल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

छीन, Grab, Seize, Snatch
सब्र, Endurance, Patience
करार, Ease,Quietude, Repose
बेक़रार, Uneasy, Restless, Unsettled

सख़्त होती हमें मंज़िल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

पा-ए-कूबाँ कोई ज़िंदाँ में नया है मजनूँ

पा-ए-कूबाँ: The foot end of a wooden instrument that is used for beating down mortar

आती आवाज़-ए-सलासिल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

आवाज़-ए-सलासिल : The sound of shackles/ chains : the awareness of being in bondage.

निगह-ए-यार को अब क्यूँ है तग़ाफ़ुल ऐ दिल

निगह-ए-यार: the sighting of a friend/beloved one. तग़ाफ़ुल: Purposeful neglect

चश्म-ए-क़ातिल मेरी दुश्मन थी हमेशा लेकिन
जैसे अब हो गई क़ातिल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

चश्म, Eye, ( Used as Expectation, Hope)
क़ातिल, Assassin, Killer, Murderer

उनकी आँखों ने खुदा जाने किया क्या जादू
के तबीयत मेरी माइल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

तबीयत, Disposition, Temperament
माइल, Affected,Enamoured

अक्स-ए-रुख-ए-यार ने किस से है तुझे चमकाया
ताब तुझ में माह-ए-कामिल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

अक्स, Image, Photograph, Reflection
अक्स-ए-रुख-ए-यार, Aks-e-rukh-e-yaar: Reflection of lovers face
ताब, Brilliance, Courage, Endurance, Luminance, Lustre, Patience
माह, Moon or Month
कामिल, Absolute, Accomplished, Complete,Whole
माह-ए-कामिल, is thus a reference to the Full moon

क्या सबब तू जो बिगड़ता है ज़फर से हर बार
खू तेरी हूर-ए-शमाइल कभी ऐसी तो न थी

सबब, Cause, Reason,
बिगड़ना, To get angry/upset with
ज़फर, Zafar: A reference to the poet, Bahadur Shah Zafar, his Takhallus
खू, Habit, Behaviour
हूर, Virgin Of Paradise, Nymph, Beauty
शमाइल, virtues, talents, abilities
हूर-ए-शमाइल, therefore becomes Beauty with excellent disposition and virtues

What a wonderful, poignant expression of pain of solitude and despondency that the last ruler of the dynasty felt when imprisoned by the British far away from his home and palace in faraway Rangoon, Burma. As he himself said later, (presciently ) “Zafar was so unfortunate that he did not get 2 yards of land to be buried in his homeland when he died.”

Stay safe, folks, stay happy and healthy. I will enjoy the weekend getting oxygenated with a set of family friends. Our bonds go back more than three quarters of a century to our fathers. Stay calm and away from the Chinese

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

10 replies on “A cry of despondency ….”

वाह!! खरंच खूप सुरेख शब्दं आणि सादरीकरण👌👌 मनाला भिडणारे 👍👍
आणि ब्लॉग चे सुंदर लेखन…..कठीण शब्दांचे अर्थ दिल्यामुळे गझल समजण्यास खूप सोपे गेले सर….त्याबद्दल तुमचे खूप खूप आभार👍👍
Thank you so much for this wonderful share Aniruddha Sir😊

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I am a huge fan of Abeeda Parveen but no one should ever attempt to replicate the gazals already sung by the God of Gazal Gayiki the great Mehdi Hasan Khan Sahib. It is a complete exercise in futility and a sheer waste of time. This does not mean that Abeedaji did not do justice to the gazal. It is just that Khan Sahib, although often immigrated, he has never been equalled. Doctor Sahib, you have done a tremendous job with your writing. I think you outdid yourself. Great job.

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